Quindaro Ruins Journey

Escape from Missouri

The story of the African Americans who lived in Old Town Quindaro begins here at the Missouri River, the beginning of the Underground Railroad for this group of people. Can you imagine having to lay in wait for an ice storm to turn the waters to hard ice in order that you may walk across into free territory? In 1820, by an Act of Congress (the Missouri Compromise), the new territory of Missouri entered into the United States as a "slave" State and Maine entered as a "free" one. This was a horrifying decision for the 9,940 enslaved Africans who were already living under the system in 1820. Congress made this decision because it did not want more "free" States than slave. The Quindaro Ruins is an important and significant place to go because it is a historic site that represents how some formerly enslaved Africans were living after escaping slavery in Missouri. Africans were without any rights, or even the right to speak, so they were trying to do something and fight for their freedom. People who were against freedom for enslaved Africans would shoot them if they saw them on sight. They enslaved escaped because they had the mind of freedom.

First Stop to Freedom

Ever since the 1820 Missouri Compromise outlawed slavery in any new territory (and likely before), African people escaped into the territory of Kansas, which was free of the slave system. When the enslaved Africans crossed the Missouri River, climbed up a steep hillside and laid eyes on a special tree, they knew that they had reached FREE Land! But, beginning in 1850, they had to beware of those who lay waiting to catch and return them to their enslavers. This fear became more heightened in 1850 when the Fugitive Slave Act was passed by Congress. The new law declared that every formerly enslaved African who was living as a free person anywhere throughout the United States was now a fugitive of the law. Warrants were submitted by the court and U.S. Marshals were sent out to hunt down all escapees. This meant that men and women who were married in "free" States, like those in Quindaro, Kansas, and living with their spouses and children at least 30 years from 1820 to 1850, and, for some, longer that, were now forced to go into hiding to prevent being returned to a life of slavery. For some, they never knew about that life.

The Signal Tree

Final Resting Place for Past and Present

Adjacent to the Signal Tree is the resting place for those unfortunate Africans who made it across the frozen Missouri River and up the hillside, only to be met by the Slave Catchers who hunted them down and, subsequently, murdered them. Sometimes, on the spot, and more likely resulting from their resistance to returning to a life of enslavement. Those brave Africans share this graveyard on the hillside with the descendants of the African Americans who inhabited Old Town Quindaro.

The Graveyard

Hiding Place

The Quindaro Brewery is a historical and sad place that symbolizes the desperation and suffering of those who were trying to find freedom. The Fugitive Slave Act resulted in the formation of a hiding system, called the Underground Railroad. This national network of good people of Caucasian descent worked with righteous indigenous people and legally free African American to secure hiding places for those Africans who were headed to northern states and Canada. Quindaro became one of those stations along the underground railroad. The town brewery set within the woods near Signal Tree served a dual purpose. It was a place where beer was brewed by day and equipment stored by night. It was also the hiding place for Africans who managed to escape Missouri plantations, trek across the frozen Missouri River, hike up the hillside, and survive the slave catchers as they made their way through the woods toward Old Town Quindaro. How long they had to hide in the brewery is not documented.

The Brewery | Inside Brewery

Why Quindaro? Bundle of Sticks

In 1854, Congress passed another law which, again, severely altered the lives of African Americans seeking to live as free people in a free State. The Nebraska-Kansas Act5 ended the Missouri Compromise of 1820 because it now allowed the residents of new States to vote on whether they would have a "slave" or "free" State. This created a massive migration to the former territory, and, new State of Kansas. White Americans who were part of the anti-slavery Abolitionist Movement in northern States rallied together to form the Republican Party in opposition to the pro-slavery White Americans in Missouri and other slave States. Each group feverishly campaign for their political side. Some 21 years prior to this significant event, in 1843, the Wyandot Indians took over the area. Chief Quindaro'daughter and her abolitionist husband, Abelard Guthrie, who followed them from Ohio to Kansas decided to remain there when the tribe disbanded. The town was named, Quindaro after the Chief's daughter, Nancy. She and her husband were strong advocates of freedom. Quindaro is known for having the most escapees come through on the Underground Railroad.6 John Brown, migrated to Quindaro as well to campaign before journeying to Osawatomie. There stands, today, a statue of John Brown in the center of a town that only lasted from its founding in 1856 to 1863.

Quindaro Ruins |Museum

The People of Old Town Quindaro

Three groups of people lived together in Old Town Quindaro, members of the disbanded Wyandot Indians; the White American abolitionists who migrated from the north; and the formerly enslaved African Americans. They were unified in their opposition to slavery. The museum reveals the agony and awful reminders like the chains that enslaved Africans were once forced to wear. Other artifacts reveal the harmony that existed in the home turned museum of a former African American descendant of those who escaped there to freedom. The museum also displays artifacts of African American inventions: an egg beater, a window cleaner, a rolling pin, first time clock in the U.S., a golf tee, a curtain rod, and pressing combs.

360 | Inside the house